What's New for 2008
Despite what its sequel-like name suggests, the 2008 Touareg 2 is a midlife refresh of Volkswagen's SUV. Restyled front and rear fascias, additional features and new option packages highlight the changes.
Slapping a "2" on the end of a title is typically the signifier of a full-fledged sequel, but the 2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2 is more like a re-edited director's cut DVD. Despite the name, VW's first SUV is by and large the same solid vehicle that was sold last year, sporting revised styling and some additional features like standard parking assist and a power liftgate. That's basically the equivalent to new DVD packaging and a couple of director's commentaries.
Although the Touareg 2 is certainly not an all-new model, the good news is that Touareg "1" was still a pretty solid sport-utility vehicle. Volkswagen took an old-school approach to SUV design when it introduced the Touareg in 2004, making sure that its first sport-utility would be as capable of tackling the Dakar Rally as it would be tackling a family trip to Rally's. Like most newer SUVs, it is a car-based crossover (which shares its platform with Porsche's Cayenne) that handles well on-road and features a comfortable, composed ride. The Touareg is set apart, though, by its elevated ground clearance, serious four-wheel-drive system and adjustable air suspension that make it equal to strong off-roaders like the Land Rover LR3. If traveling off the beaten path is a frequent venture, test-driving the Touareg is a must.
Most Americans keep their SUVs on the beaten path, however, utilizing them to haul around children and stuff. For those utilitarian duties, the Touareg 2 suffers against other luxury crossovers. Its second-row seat is on the small side and there is no third-row option. Its cargo area is also smaller than those of some compact crossovers. Meanwhile, all of that off-road hardware contributes to a hefty curb weight, which translates into below-average fuel economy and the tendency to feel cumbersome. The Touareg 2 happens to be one of just four SUVs sold in the United States with an available diesel-fueled engine, though the MSRP of the Touareg 2 V10 TDI model is uncomfortably high.
In general, pricing for the Touareg 2 is certainly a concern. This model was one of the vehicles VW originally intended to help push the brand's image into the luxury realm -- a mission that has met with less-than-successful results. This is subsequently a true luxury SUV with a very nice interior, highlighted by quality materials and an attractive design. Yet when comparably equipped, the Touareg 2 is pricier than other luxury crossovers like the Lexus RX 350, Infiniti FX35 and Acura MDX. It matches up price-wise against the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz ML-Class, but we're not sure if Volkswagen has the prestige to play in that league. And judging by Touareg 1's mediocre sales, neither are American SUV buyers.
Still, the 2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2 remains an attractive, well-built and luxurious crossover SUV that can tackle just about any terrain its driver wants to embark upon. In The Bourne Ultimatum, that terrain is the streets of New York City, where a Touareg 2 is used to chase down Matt Damon. That movie was of course a sequel, and definitely more of one than this slightly revamped VW SUV. It could've been worse, though; it could've been called the Touareg Reloaded.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2 is a midsize, five-passenger SUV available in three trim levels that correspond with its engine: VR6, V8 and V10 TDI. The VR6 comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic wipers, a power liftgate, a sunroof, rear parking assist, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, 12-way driver and eight-way passenger power front seats with heat, leatherette upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control and a 10-speaker stereo with a CD player and satellite radio. The Touareg 2 V8 trim level adds 19-inch wheels, an adjustable air suspension, bi-xenon headlights, real wood trim, leather upholstery, a 12-way power passenger seat and driver memory functions. Most of its upgrades are available on the VR6 as options. The V10 TDI uniquely adds front passenger memory functions, power height-adjustable front seatbelts and a heated steering wheel.
Available on all trim levels is the Lux Plus Package that includes keyless ignition, four-zone automatic climate control, heated rear seats and a premium audio system. The Technologie Package adds a rearview camera, a navigation system and an 11-speaker sound system with single DVD/CD player, auxiliary audio jack and a trunk-mounted six-CD changer.
Powertrains and Performance
Each Touareg 2 trim level comes with a different engine, but all have a six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive and a low-range gear. The VR6 name refers to the narrow-angle 3.6-liter V6 that makes 280 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy for this engine is below average at 16 mpg city/20 mpg highway. The V8 is a 4.2-liter unit that produces 350 hp and 324 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 12/17 mpg. The V10 TDI is a 5.0-liter turbodiesel engine that makes 310 hp and a colossal 553 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 15/20 mpg, but this engine is not available in California-emissions states. Properly equipped, the Touareg 2 can tow 7,700 pounds.
Every 2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2 comes with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, hill descent and incline roll-back control. Passive safety features include side airbags for front occupants and full-length side-curtain airbags. In crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Touareg a rating of five out of five stars for frontal and side impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
For 2008, new front seats feature revised side bolsters and there's a new optional multifunction display that offers more detailed and visually interesting information. Other than that, the Touareg 2 isn't much different inside from Touareg 1. The same upscale, high-quality cabin remains. Most surfaces are soft-touch, and hard surfaces (lower dash, console, doors) feel smooth and substantial. Build quality is excellent, too, while standard and optional equipment make for a genuine luxury vehicle. Where the Touareg falters, though, is regarding space -- both for passengers and cargo. While many other midsize SUVs offer a third-row seat, the VW makes do with only a single rear row, which is fairly cramped. Cargo capacity is 31 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 71 cubes when they're folded -- that's less than a Honda CR-V.
Even if you never leave the pavement, the 2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2 should satisfy. The new V6 and V8 engines provide plenty of oomph, which is certainly needed to overcome the vehicle's robust curb weight. The V10 TDI might have been the range-topping choice back in 2004, but its massive torque is tempered by an approximate 3-ton curb weight -- nearly 1,000 pounds more than a base VR6 model -- along with a hefty price premium and less-than-stellar mileage. For all-around performance, the V8 would be our choice, but for shoppers on a budget, the more fuel-efficient V6 should be adequate. On the road, the Touareg's ride quality is smooth and stable. The SUV is also surprisingly agile around corners when equipped with the air suspension. Taken off-road, the Touareg amazes, negotiating steep passes and deep ruts normally reserved for rough-and-tumble Land Rovers.